NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Urban Sprawl Advances on American Military

December 3, 2003

Military bases throughout the country, many of which were once located in isolated areas, are finding themselves enveloped by the spread of the suburbs. Residents complain about noise from planes or artillery, dust and danger of accidents.

One reason for the encroachment is that military installations are major economic engines. As development has crowded closer and closer, missions have been halted and bases have closed.

The Pentagon, the National Governors Association and many states are trying to address the issue with a mix of voluntary guidelines and laws designed to protect the ability of the military to carry out its missions.

Arizona has adopted some of the toughest measure to address the problem:

  • The state requires that all communities where there are military installations must develop land use plans that will restrict development near the base.
  • Developers must notify prospective buyers that military training occurs nearby and disclose noise levels; if they do not, they can face fines.

The military and some states and local authorities have tried other solutions. Among them: creating agricultural preservation areas around bases, allowing conservation trusts to purchase land and, in rare cases, having the military buy or lease tracts of land.

With another round of national base closings looming in 2005, urban sprawl will be one factor considered when deciding which installations to close.

Source: Reuters, "Urban Sprawl Advances on American Military: Bases Getting Crowed by Development," USA Today, December 2, 2003.


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